Interview: Awaidha Murshed Al Marar
In what ways will the Department of Transport and the Department of Municipal Affairs merger create efficiencies going forward?
AWAIDHA MURSHED AL MARAR: This merger has placed the new department in a better position to map out and implement policies aimed at achieving improved, integrated and sustained services in both municipal affairs and transport. It has now become a single entity capable of charting out and implementing development plans under an integrated structure that achieves the optimal link between the requirements and components of the development process. Such infrastructure includes public facilities, roads and transportation networks that meet the needs of the public and fulfil the current and future requirements of development. In principle, the merger of government entities cuts bureaucracy, minimises process overlaps, positively impacts performance, and serve the interests of clients and investors.
It is worth mentioning that DMAT is particularly pursuing efficiencies in the project lifecycle. From the very inception of an idea for a project, DMAT is seeking to be involved by marshalling planning resources from the Abu Dhabi General Services Company (Musanada). As the project takes form, engineering talent and management resources residing within the transport division can be authorised to manage the project. Thus, DMAT envisions more projects being properly designed and more quickly constructed, generating time and cost savings for the Abu Dhabi government.
How do you envisage the future of multi-modal public transport in Abu Dhabi?
AL MARAR: In Abu Dhabi City a master plan has been developed based on a concept of integrated public transport services, building on the existing network of bus services. The Surface Transport Master Plan, updated from 2009, sets out a commitment to establish an extensive urban public transport system for Abu Dhabi based on complementary networks of metro, light rail transit and public bus services. For Abu Dhabi to compete at an international level, it will be essential that land use and transport provision adopts a balanced approach to private and public transport.
Future population growth will require implementation of mass transit modes to ensure the city has a sustainable transport system that supports development. The network of public transport modes will encourage a shift from private cars, and seamless interchanges between modes will offer users a wide variety of destinations using carefully planned interchange locations across the city. Initially, we will extend the public bus network by providing more coverage, more frequent services and by utilising an integrated fare system.
What role will public-private partnerships (PPPs) play in the future under DMAT?
AL MARAR: Estimated investments budgeted for transportation projects under the five-year plan of Abu Dhabi amounts to about Dh19bn ($5.2bn). With this in mind, the PPP model commands supreme importance in concept and practice as it enhances long-term cooperation between the two sectors to realise joint strategic objectives, augment the public sector’s ability to execute infrastructure and transport projects, and utilise the expertise of the private sector in constructing, operating and managing projects.
This partnership also represents a key source for funding. The Musataha land development contract, which encourages investment in infrastructure projects and safeguards the rights of investors according to the best international standards, has solid legislative form and clear-cut, transparent laws. This makes it easier for investors to obtain necessary funds from financial institutions to undertake these projects. Therefore, PPPs are suitable for executing infrastructure projects in the transportation sector and beyond. However, a case-by-case appraisal is the ideal system to determine the proper financing and delivery scenario of each project.
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